Not Feeling Good Enough? How to Deal with Guilt
Every time we turn on the television, we’re bathed in an LED glow of the strongest subliminal (and not so subliminal) message: You’re not good enough. Look at how much better you could be! There’s something wrong with you.Diet commercials splash before and after pictures of the frumpy to fantastic. Beaming smiles abound and tell us, “Yes, I’m finally good enough!” Feel-good insurance commercials present the picture of the perfect family and remind us what our lives are missing because, for most of us, our lives feel far from picture-perfect. We’re secretly told that if our lives don’t have the “happily ever after” ending depicted in movies, we must be deficient in some way.
We open our ears and hearts to these messages and begin to let them inform us about who we are and, more influentially, who we are not. We start to feel not good enough. We feel guilty for not trying harder. We take stock of our lives and use society and the media as a barometer of our worth, success and happiness.
It can be overwhelming to feel guilty when we lay our heads on the pillow at night, evaluating all the ways in which we believe we’ve failed. Failed our bodies, homes, spouses, children, and jobs. Guilt, if left unaddressed, can spiral into depression and despair.
So, how do we deal with guilt? We must understand it for the lie that it is. We must remind ourselves of the truth, the ultimate truth that we were fearfully and wonderfully made to live a life of abundance.
Common Lies about Not Being Good Enough
Here are two commonly experienced lies we face when it comes to guilt and never feeling good enough. And, here’s how we learn to speak truth to them.
LIE: I’m not a good enough Christian.
Believers are not immune from their faith being a target of guilt. There’s a difference between guilt and conviction. Guilt tells us there is something wrong with us. We are deficient in some way and therefore beyond God’s grace.This is a lie. If the lie convinces you enough, it will render your faith useless in the face of living an abundant life. Guilt keeps our eyes on us, our sin. It distracts us from redemption and the truth of God’s word. Conviction, on the other hand, invites us into a conversation with our Creator who desires to whisper truth to us in those moments of guilt.
We compare ourselves to other believers. We wrongly think that they have their lives together, that they’ve got this “Christian life” perfected. Essentially, we compare the worst of ourselves to the perceived best of others. Such a comparison is an unreliable and misleading means of ridding us of guilt. It actually compounds it. How then do we deal with guilt?
TRUTH: Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23
We must look to the truth of God’s word to effectively combat the enemy of guilt, the infallible truth that will never fail. Hebrews 10:14 tells us “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
You have been perfected. The good news is that you are in the process of being sanctified. So, you will certainly experience times of coming face to face with the uncomfortable truth that there are parts of you (and everyone else) that are imperfect.
Guilt is the unintended, but human consequence of being confronted with our shortcomings because even our bodies and minds are crying out to finally be made fully righteous as we were intended to be. And, that day won’t come until we depart from this earth and are transformed by this promise maker.Until then, we must ask ourselves: Am I looking at my perceived failures and shortcomings with guilt, a lie from the enemy, or with conviction and grace, the truth of God’s word? The basic truth of your salvation is the saving knowledge written in John 3:16. To paraphrase, if you believe that Jesus died for YOU, you will have eternal life.
The task then becomes to believe this and to remind ourselves of this truth, particularly when guilty feelings strike. You believed it when you first acknowledged it. What is interfering now? What messages are beginning to become louder than the truth?
LIE: I’m not good enough to be loved.
Why is it that when we are betrayed or hurt by someone, we look to ourselves as the ones to blame? Think about a time you’ve been hurt. You may have gotten angry at the other person and blamed them.
You also may have turned your anger inward, wondering: What did I do to deserve this? What is wrong with me that he found me unworthy or disposable? Asking these types of judgmental questions assumes that we are responsible for someone else’s behavior or decisions. It leaves us feeling guilty and just not good enough.
It’s an all too common lie. We tell ourselves we could have done something differently. If only we had said this instead of that, we wouldn’t have been hurt. We hold ourselves to an impossible standard. The standard of being able to predict the outcomes in our relationships by directly influencing someone else.
TRUTH: No matter how badly we may want to, we cannot control or predict another person’s choices. Instead, we are called to love.
You’ll recall, the truth of God’s word says that we are being perfected. God gave us the gift of relationships because He knew that we needed the physical proximity of love in a physical world. We were created to connect. We were created to love. First, to love God. Second, to love others (like we love ourselves). And we embrace the joy that comes along with loving and experiencing being loved. The pain of heartbreak, hurt, and betrayal though? Not so much.
The truth is that we are imperfect humans, which means we will hurt and be hurt. We will fall short of God-breathed love. We will make mistakes and so will others. When we open our hearts into love and connection, we also open the door to disappointment and hurt. We must accept this truth.
We are guaranteed opportunities to practice God’s love (as defined in 1 Corinthians 13) – to bear all things; to endure all things. God doesn’t promise us a hurt-free, Disney-movie, blue-bird-singing-on-our-shoulder life. He promises an abundant life. An abundant life is one in which we become less like us, and more like God. And that hurts. It’s literally a death of self (see Galatians 2:20).
We must stop expecting that we will never be hurt. And embrace the truth that when we are hurt, we will follow hard after the practice of God-defined love. It doesn’t mean we don’t process our hurts. It doesn’t mean we don’t confront evil. It means we choose the path of love, embracing both justice and mercy. That same love that has seated us in eternity with the Father.
The Bottom Line
Guilt settles in when we focus on lies. The lies we tell ourselves and the lies of society we choose to believe. Guilt reminds us that we’re not now, nor ever will be, good enough. Guilt threatens our ability to thrive, to live the abundant life promised to us. We must constantly redirect our focus on the truth of God’s word; the truth of what we control and what we don’t.
It’s certainly easier to keep our eyes fixed on the truth when we surround ourselves with others who know and speak truth to us. Who are your truth speakers? Your spouse? A best friend? Perhaps even a Christian counselor? Ultimately, the truth you speak to yourself must be verified by God’s eternal and trusted Word. If it doesn’t line up with that, it’s a lie.
“Morning Reading”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Prayer,” Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Patience”, Courtesy of Umit Bulut, Unsplash.com, CC0 License “Hike”, Courtesy of Dennis Ottink, Unsplash.com, CC0 License